“Paul and Virginia” series
Transferware from a British Perspective
Number Twenty-Six of an Ongoing Series by Dick Henrywood
For this issue I have selected a series which fits into the Literature category and also features children’s wares which I have omitted to cover before. Children’s wares are a fascinating subject covered in great detail by Noël Riley in Gifts for Good Children – The History of Children’s China (Richard Dennis, Shepton Beauchamp, Part 1, 1991). The range of subjects considered fit for children was vast but quite a few of them would be thought unsuitable today. Many of the patterns are fascinating but the potters clearly produced the wares for a budget market and the quality is not always of the highest, although a few can be superb. This series by William Smith & Co. is only of fairly average quality, but as with many of these wares, quite collectable.
“Paul and Virginia” series
A series of scenes from the story of Paul and Virginia produced by William Smith & Co. of Stockton on children’s plates. They are generally 6.5in to 7.25in in diameter and are most commonly found within a simple moulded border of daisy heads, although a moulded floral border picked out with coloured enamels is also thought to exist. Examples normally bear a printed series title mark “PAUL / and / VIRGINIA” (in a simple scroll frame) and also an impressed mark “W.S. & Co’s / QUEEN’S WARE / STOCKTON”. The series is found printed in black, brown, green or purple, but other colours, blue or red, for example, may have been made.
Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s hugely popular French novel Paul et Virginie was published in 1788 and first translated into English in 1795 as Paul and Virginia. There are many different editions, including several by American publishers, but the scenes on Smith’s wares are copied from an English edition of 1838.
Recorded scenes are:
“Discovered by Fidelio”
The full title of the original source engraving is “The Children Found by Fidelio”.
“Maroon Slave and Virginia”
The full title of the original source engraving is “The Maroon Slave at the Feet of Virginia”.
“Passage of the Torrent”
“The Bird’s Nest” *
“The Body of Virginia Found in the Sand”
“The Death of Paul”
The full title of the original source engraving is “The Youth of Paul and Virginia”.
“Virginia and Her Goats”
“Virginia at the Fountain”
“Virginia Attending the Sick Poor”
“Virginia Comforting Paul” *
Of these eleven scenes, eight are currently featured in the TCC database and I illustrate a ninth “The Bird’s Nest” here, along with the usual printed series title and impressed marks. Images of the two missing scenes (“Discovered by Fidelio” and “Virginia Comforting Paul”) would be welcome, as of course, would be news of any scenes not listed above. There are several unused source prints which could have been copied. As usual, an asterisk indicates that the titles of “The Bird’s Nest” (incomplete on the example illustrated here) and “Virginia Comforting Paul” have not yet been confirmed. Does anyone know of any other colours or wares other than plates? Contibutions would be welcome, as always, and should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Click on images for a larger view.)
Figure 1. “The Bird’s Nest” printed in black on a 7in plate.
Figure 2. Typical printed and impressed marks.